New handball rules leading to more criticism of VAR in Germany

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BERLIN (AP) Newly implemented handball rules in soccer were supposed to provide greater clarity for those playing or watching the game.

In Germany, they are causing confusion and leading to renewed criticism of the increasingly unpopular video assistant referee.

Two decisions in Saturday’s top game between Schalke and Bayern Munich, and others scattered among other Bundesliga games over the weekend, led players, fans, coaches – and even former referees – to question whether the changes are benefiting the game at all.

“How rules are changed again and again is making football worse,” Werder Bremen striker Niclas Fullkrug said after he had a goal ruled out in his side’s 3-2 loss at Hoffenheim on Saturday.

Fullkrug had thought he’d equalized but VAR intervened after the ball touched his arm.

“I don’t understand it. But according to the rules it isn’t a goal,” Fullkrug said.

The new rule states that even an accidental handball by the attacking player will be penalized, leading to a sarcastic reaction from Fullkrug’s teammate Kevin Mohwald.

“That’s the new brilliant rule that we have. It’s top,” Mohwald said.

Freiburg felt hard done by in a game at Paderborn when it wasn’t awarded a penalty after Jerome Gondorf’s free kick struck defending Paderborn captain Christian Strohdiek’s arm.

“What upsets me is that there is a difference between handball by a forward and handball by a defender. That’s causing discussions without end,” former referee Thorsten Kinhofer wrote in a column for the mass circulation “Bild am Sonntag” tabloid.

Schalke coach David Wagner was aggrieved not to get two penalties against Bayern.

“Honestly, I’m looking forward to an explanation,” Wagner said.

Bayern defender Benjamin Pavard’s arm blocked a header from Matija Nastasic, then Daniel Caligiuri’s free kick was deflected out of play by Ivan Perisic’s arm.

Referee Marco Fritz allowed play continue and did not review the scenes again. Fritz later said he did not receive a signal from video assistant Bastian Dankert in Cologne that there had been an error.

Lutz Michael Frohlich, the German soccer federation’s head of the referees, acknowledged that Fritz should have checked again.

“For the power of persuasion and the effect externally, it would probably have been best if he’d formed his own picture,” Frohlich told broadcaster Sport1.

Patience is running thin, with Borussia Moenchengladbach coach Marco Rose another to add his voice to the criticism.

“If you don’t at least go out and look at it again, then I also don’t understand the point of the video referee,” Rose said.